New York City Football Club host Inter Miami CF at Citi Field on Monday night in the First Round of the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.
For this edition of 'The Away End' presented by Berkeley College & Rennert International, we spoke to Ian Hest, founder of the Heron Outlet.
Hi Ian, thanks for speaking with us. How long have you been covering Inter Miami?
Happy to chat with you! I have been covering Inter Miami since the very start of the team, from the naming of the club back in 2018 to their first season in 2020. In 2021, I founded and host The Heron Outlet, an independent media organization that covers the Senior Team, MLS Next Pro's Inter Miami II, and the Academy, as well as soccer throughout South Florida.
What’s been your favorite moment covering the team?
The creation of a club from scratch always comes with special moments along the way both on and off the field, and there have been many ups and downs in the first few years. If I have to pick just one on the field, I think it would have to be recently, the second to last game this year, which clinched a playoff berth with a 4-1 win over Orlando. Maybe that's recency bias, but to achieve that for the first time* (in 2020 they made the playoffs only because of the expanded 10-team field) and to do it against your rivals at home in such a dominating fashion and in front of one of the best crowds they've had in their short history, it felt like that "finally" moment of arrival and belonging on this playoff stage.
How would you describe the team's 2022 season so far?
The Story of Gonzalo Higuain. Hollywood wishes they could write a script like this. From his frustrating play last year which continued into this year resulting in him being demoted to the bench, to his unbelievable change in attitude and form over the summer, leading to him scoring 14 goals and two assists in his last 16 games, culminating with the emotional announcement of his decision to retire at the end of the year. This team rallies around him and they have the added motivation of playing for him with their dream to send Gonzalo out on top.
Who would you describe as Miami's dangerman?
The late-season Miami playoff push has been defined by theatrical late game goals and an aggressive full-go style of play. So given that, either Higuain or Pozuelo are the easy choices. But I'll go another direction and say goalkeeper Drake Callender. The MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Finalist has saved (pun-intended) Miami in big moments time and time again this year, especially when Miami's end-to-end blitzing style of play can stretch the field too much and open up opportunities for opponents.
The two teams met twice in the regular season and claimed a win apiece. What did you make of those meetings?
They both went pretty much how I expected. Miami's poor form away from home was on full display in the first meeting in Yankee Stadium. They played right into NYCFC's hands, getting squeezed like a vice, easily being dispossessed, and their frustration led to quality chances for the Pigeons, who thoroughly outplayed Miami. They learned from it and played more of their own in the return leg, making the match a marathon in the South Florida heat and humidity, and wearing NYC down leading to a late game-winner. Miami also did a much better job in the midfield against Alfredo Morales, led by their two Brazilian midfielders Gregore and Jean Mota. They'll need to replicate that again to find success on Monday.
What do you think will be the decisive factor in Monday's game?
It might be overly simple but when and who scores the first goal will most likely make all the difference. If NYCFC score first, and especially if they do it early, Miami's dream playoff run for Higuain could quickly turn into a nightmare. The longer it stays 0-0, the more the late game Heron heroics will come into play, and if Miami happens to nab a lead, they will take an exhaustive sigh of relief from the pressure of this match.